Trip Report
My Italian Christmas 2013 - Grignetta, Bellagio, Lecco, Monza
Tuesday February 11, 2014 4:52pm
We were in Italy for the last two weeks of December visiting family, so it didn't bother us much that it was raining every day with temps hovering just above freezing. Well, we did get 3 days of sunshine, and made the most of it:

We planned to go rock climbing around these peaks above Lecco, known as Grignone and Grignetta. They are the local crags, the training grounds, for some of the most famous alpinists:

Lago di Como is shaped like a big inverted Y. Here is the Lecco side:

The town of Bellagio sits at the point of where the branches meet:

The snow-capped ridge in the center, distant, is probably the Swiss-Italian border:

It is a quaint little town with nice shops and streets to ramble through:

Here is the shrine atop Madonna del Ghisallo, the hill to the south of Bellagio.

According to legend, the Medieval count Ghisallo was being attacked by bandits when he saw an image of Virgin Mary at a shrine. He ran to it and was saved from the robbers. The apparition became known as the Madonna del Ghisallo, and she became a patroness of local travelers. In later times, Madonna del Ghisallo (the hill) was made part of the Giro di Lombardia bicycle race. As you can see, they are all filled up with memorabilia inside, and are constructing a large museum next door to house these bits of history. For many people in Italy, bicycling is a religion:

Sometimes I like to just stop and appreciate the simple things, like the scalloped design of a walkway. It's so much more inspiring than asphalt!

Well, our first day of sunshine we explored Bellagio, and the next day we decided it was time to climb Grignetta. Here's a drive-by shot through the car windshield:

We had to park a bit from the trailhead because the steep road was too iced over to make it up in the car. It was pretty tough to walk it hiking boots too. After slip-sliding on pure ice at the start of the trail, we get into the verglassed rock scrambling. It quickly turns into a don't fall section, but a bit of via ferrata makes it seem less sketchy:

This was the first time I've been in really hard snow. Everyone else we saw that day had crampons and very fashionable outdoor attire. I was disappointed at first that we weren't going to be doing roped rock climbing, but this snow adventure quickly turned exciting enough:

It's hard to get a sense of the steepness of things- it's all foreshortened. There is an awesome-looking moderate 12-pitch linkup on the rock on the right side- Sigaro e Magnaghi. I want to do it next time we go during spring or summer.

This is slightly tilted, but it gives you a better sense of what it feels like to be there. Falling would be supremely ungood.

But it is just beautiful everywhere you look, near and far:

We got a very late start, and were ready to bail. We hadn't really planned on summitting, even though I privately nursed a hope that we would. It just didn't seem wise, what with everyone in crampons, and thinking about reversing some of the sketch moves in slippery hiking boots on steep hard ice/snow with grave exposure. My lady is pretty cautious on American rock, but in her local element she just casually and silently alights little non-trivial sections that give me pause to consider the consequences. I'm used to having "adventure climbing" days and "lovin' it with the missus" days be separate types of climbing experiences, after we reached an understanding in our first year together. The formula of being lost, cold, after dark, can't find the tent/campground, cutting or destroying ropes, etc... was becoming a recurring theme and we broke that pattern. Well, on this day, my redline adventure meter was reading full, and she with her vast experience in this her backyard crag, well she was just in her comfort zone. So it was a beautiful day filled with love and full-on adventure.

As I was saying, we decided to bail. But after a late lunch with waning daylight, she proposed the idea of going the last bit to the top. I'm glad she did!

This here's an emergency shelter for people who get caught high in storms.

Requisite selfie:

At the top, they have a memorial to famous Lecco Spiders who are no more... you'll probably recognize a few names in there, including Walter Bonatti, Ricardo Cassin, and the folks who made the first undisputed ascent of Torre Egger in 1974 ( Daniele Chiappa, Mario Conti, Casimiro Ferrari, and Pino Negri). With a backyard crag like this, it's easy to see why these folks were inspired to visit the grand mountains of the world:

Well, we had to consider that the barely possible frozen-but-thawed snow we climbed up would soon turn utterly impossible without crampons when the sun went down. That issue was more serious than just needing headlamps, so we didn't mess around much during the descent:

But just too damn beautiful everywhere to not take pictures. You notice I'm behind at this point...

It worked out pretty perfectly, getting back down with the fading sun, before the fun adventure turned into an epic.

We wrapped up the day with a nice icy stroll back to the car:

Well, our last sunny day was really just a few hours of sunshine, and we got out of the house for a little strolling around Monza. It is a pretty walking-friendly town with lots of shops.

Lots of booths set up for selling during the holiday season:

But I was more interested in just looking around than buying anything:

Well, it was mostly a family-focused indoors trip, and very enjoyable for that. Even so, we managed to have some memorable experiences outside too. Parting shots from the plane, shortly after take-off from Malpensa airport right next to Monta Rosa. In quick succession we flew over Il Cervino (Matterhorn) and the Grand Jorasses & Monte Bianco, with a nice arc of the Alps cradling northern Italy.

Ciao tutti, e buonaventure

Credit: NutAgain!

  Trip Report Views: 2,100
About the Author
NutAgain! is a trad climber from South Pasadena, CA.

Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
this just in

Justin Ross from North Fork
  Feb 11, 2014 - 05:00pm PT
My favorite TRs are those from other countries. Not much better than traveling. Great pics Nutagain.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Feb 11, 2014 - 06:43pm PT
Nice nut, was that lago de Como or Garda????

I have distant relatives over there!!!!
Love that place and country!!!!!

  Feb 11, 2014 - 06:44pm PT


Sport climber
Made in California, living in The Old Pueblo
  Feb 11, 2014 - 06:46pm PT

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Author's Reply  Feb 11, 2014 - 07:19pm PT
Ha ha, actually this trip was the first time that I seriously considered a move to Italy as part of the retirement plans a few decades from now.

Ma prima, ho bisogno di praticare a parlare in Italiano. Sono andato a classe stasera.

Edit: All the lake pictures are Lago di Como, either the eastern branch near the town of Lecco or looking to the north from Bellagio. I do have a few pics looking west from Bellagio toward Erba side, but not posted here.

A long way from where I started
  Feb 11, 2014 - 07:09pm PT
paul roehl

Boulder climber
  Feb 11, 2014 - 08:49pm PT
Beautiful shots! I absolutely love Lago Como. Was there for a second visit this summer and stayed in Varenna... yeah, I could see living there.

Mountain climber
Colorado & Nepal
  Feb 11, 2014 - 07:34pm PT
Thanks for a great trip report. I loved my time in the Alps and this brought back so many nostalgic memories of the winter weekends there. My experience was all on the French and Swiss sides so I am always interested to see the same mountains from the other direction.
lars johansen

Trad climber
West Marin, CA
  Feb 11, 2014 - 09:47pm PT
Really enjoyed seeing your shots of Italy. Thanks
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Feb 11, 2014 - 10:50pm PT
Thanks for sharing, I think we can all imagine ourselves as Italians living the mountain life on the sunny side of the Alps. Their built environment just seems to blend in so well with the natural context and with such grace and beauty. Bravo!
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Feb 12, 2014 - 12:33pm PT
Wow...great trip report!

Nice weather in December...hmm...ha ha.

I've always been amazed by the stone work in the sidewalks and streets...dizzying patterns. Pretty cool.

Spent a couple weeks on the north end of Como in 2012 climbing/canyoning. Great spot that I'd visit again in a heartbeat.

Nor Cal
  Feb 12, 2014 - 12:36pm PT
looks like another horrible experience you had. therapy is needed to overcome your trauma.

nice, thanks

Mountain climber
Draperderr, Utah
  Feb 12, 2014 - 12:38pm PT
dirt claud

Social climber
san diego,ca
  Feb 12, 2014 - 01:04pm PT
What a beautiful area, glad you guys had a great time, thanks for the pics and write up.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Feb 12, 2014 - 01:45pm PT
Bella, Bella!

  Feb 12, 2014 - 03:00pm PT
Wow, very cool to see something different like this. Great pics, & peaks! TFPU!

Sport climber
  Feb 12, 2014 - 03:05pm PT
Fantastic TR - a world of utter beauty. TFPU!

... and you're forgiven for posting the selfie... lol...

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
  Feb 12, 2014 - 03:23pm PT
During my time in the Army back in the 1960's, I spent almost all my leave time in Italy. Then again last year, after a 50 year lapse, I again realized that it was THE place for some wonderful experiences.

My wish list has another 3-4 week jaunt this upcoming late August-early September.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Author's Reply  Feb 12, 2014 - 03:35pm PT
Brokedown: a little beta for Italian vacation seasons... apparently the entire country (except those serving tourists) takes vacation for the month of August, so resort towns and tourist destinations will be swamped. September will give you fewer crowds, and maybe better prices and easier to find availability for lodging?

I've never traveled there in August or September so I can't give any insight into weather differences.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Feb 12, 2014 - 04:00pm PT
Since I'll probably never have the resources to climb there, I have a certain amount of regret and envy, but mostly, I am very grateful to read your wonderful trip report and gaze and those beautiful pictures. Thanks much!


Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Feb 13, 2014 - 01:41pm PT
Oh so nice! Just beautiful...thanks for sharing your amazing adventure!


Trad climber
Douglas, WY
  Feb 13, 2014 - 08:28pm PT

I've done a lot of checking on accommodations in late August, and both Pensions where I stayed last year drop their rates after the 3rd weekend. Climbing during the week isn't bad either, and since I got old and climb with a guide these days, Mauro Bernardi is available again this year.

I really love Wolkenstein (Selva) as well as St. Christina.

These are the places I stayed:

The lovely Albergo Silvana in Wolkenstein.
The lovely Albergo Silvana in Wolkenstein.
Credit: Brokedownclimber

Albergo Silvana is owned by the Kostner family, where Claudio is the chef. Very good food and clean, comfortable accommodations.

Pension Grohmann.
Pension Grohmann.
Credit: Brokedownclimber

Pension Grohmann was wonderful! Marvelous food, and with WiFi. Also owned by the family operating the facility, the family Senoner.
My 3 weeks simply flew by, and the climbing was great.

I developed a real taste for the Tyrolian specialty "Speck." That's sort of a very dry cured and well smoked bacon that's eaten uncooked. Tastes GREAT and I never had any health issues either.
Timid TopRope

Social climber
the land of Pale Ale
  Feb 13, 2014 - 10:40pm PT
Really nice. I once hung out at the next lake north- Lugano. Beautiful street photos and mountain fair.

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
  Feb 14, 2014 - 12:09am PT
Great photos beardbro!
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report